2018 Will See a Major Spike in Devastating Earthquakes, Scientists Say

The downtown core shows the damage after an earthquake measuring 7 plus on the Richter scale rocked Port au Prince Haiti, January 12, 2010.United Nations Development Programme/Flickr

The working theory behind their prediction involves a slight and gradual slowing of the Earth's rotation.

To date, no scientists have been able to predict where or when earthquakes will happen, but two researchers are hoping to break this losing streak. When Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana studied every earthquake since 1900 scoring 7.0 or higher on the moment magnitude scale, they found a curious connection.

They found that approximately every 32 years, there is an uptick in these large quakes. The only factor that strongly correlates is a slight slowing of the Earth’s rotation in a five-year period before the uptick.

Even Bendick admits the idea sounds "crazy", but as Quartz explains, the two scientists believe it has to do with the Earth's anatomy:

Starting from its very center, the planet is made of a solid iron and nickel “inner core,” liquid iron and nickel “outer core,” a thick liquid mantle, and finally a thin solid crust. Earthquakes occur on the crust, but the crust floats on the mantle.

Their theory hinges on the relationship between the mantle and crust.

Though Bilham and Bendick don’t know for sure, they believe that every so often the Earth’s mantle might stick a little more to the crust. That could change how the liquid outer core flows. And because it’s all metal down there, the change in flow will affect planet’s magnetic field, which would ever so slightly affect the Earth’s rotation and thus change the length of the day by milliseconds. The Earth’s rotation has been slowing down for the past four years.

The downside to the prediction is that it avails only generalities - no specific dates or places. Nevertheless,

“The inference is clear,” Bilham told the Guardian. “Next year we should see a significant increase in numbers of severe earthquakes.” Instead of an average of about 15-20 large earthquakes, we might see 25 or 30 in 2018.